Picton Valley - Rob Blakers

Forestry activities in Tasmania are generally regulated under the following laws:

  • Forest Practices Act 1985 – sets out processes for the development of the Forest Practices Code and assessment and regulation of forestry operations
  • Forest Management Act 2013 – outlines Forestry Tasmania’s ongoing management responsibilities for State forest areas, road maintenance, setting wood production policy and entering into supply contracts
  • Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014 – sets out the government’s policies on additional reserves / harvesting restrictions following the revocation of the “peace deal” legislation

Subject to some exemptions, forest practices in State forests and on private land require a forest practices plan.  In particular, a forest practices plan is required for:

  • clearing more than 1ha or 100t of vegetation on non-vulnerable land
  • any clearing of vegetation on vulnerable land (including habitat for threatened species), unless the clearing relates to a building authorised by a planning permit (see “Planning and Development”) or infrastructure work (such as railways or transmission lines)

An application for certification is made to the Forest Practice Authority and assessed against the Forest Practices Code 2015 and a range of planning tools developed to implement the Code.  For a more detailed discussion of the forest practices system, click here.

While opportunities to get involved in forestry decisions are more limited than other land uses, there are still a number of ways to have your say:

  • Comment on Forest Practices Code reviews (or request a review yourself)
  • Object to a private timber reserve application
  • Comment on draft forest practices plans
  • Make a representation on development applications involving clearing and conversion
  • Request a variation or revocation of a forest practices plan
  • Report unlawful clearing
  • Make a complaint regarding smoke management
  • Lobby for forest areas to be included in reserves (see “Protected Areas and Reserves”)

Scroll down to find out more about these opportunities.

For a more detailed assessment of how the forest practices system works (and what improvements could be made), see the EDO report State forests, National interests. 

 

Responding to government proposals

Review of Forest Practices Code

FPCThe Forest Practices Board may amend the Forest Practices Code (or replace it with a new Code) at any time.  Any person may also write to the Board to request that the Code be amended.

If the Board decides to propose an amendment, the Board must consult with Private Forests Tasmania, the Forest Practices Advisory Council and Forestry Tasmania.  The Board must also give public notice of the proposed amendments and invite comments on the proposals for a period of at least 60 days.

Any person can make a written submission regarding the proposed amendments during the comment period.  To read past EDO submissions, click here.

For information about the 2015 review of the Forest Practices Code, click here.

 

Review of Forest Management Plans and other documents

Forestry Tasmania maintains a number of sustainable management plans and will often seek public input.  Any person can register as an interested stakeholder to be added to the list of people invited to comment on draft plans.

 

Responding to applications

Private Timber Reserves

Landowners can also apply for their land to be declared a Private Timber Reserve.  If declared as a PTR, the land is required to be used for harvesting, and will be exempt from any requirement to comply with the planning scheme provisions in relation to forest practices on the land (see below).  A Forest Practices Plan will still need to be certified for the forest practices on the land.

PTR applications are advertised in the newspaper and comments invited from any ‘prescribed person’.  This is limited to:

  • people with a legal interest in the land (e.g. a mortgagee or co-owner)
  • a neighbouring landowner (not occupier) of land that directly adjoins the PTR or is within 100m of the PTR boundary
  • a local council or State government agency

Objections must be made within 28 days of that date of the public notice and sent to Private Forests Tasmania. Click here to download an objection form.

Neighbouring owners can only object on the basis that a PTR declaration would cause them a “direct and material disadvantage”.  The Forest Practices Tribunal has held that direct and material disadvantage can include reduced property values and residential amenity, traffic impacts, impacts on water supply (both quality and quantity) and increased bushfire hazards resulting from forest practices.

The local Council may object on broader “public interest” grounds. If you are not an adjoining landowner but have concerns regarding the impact of a PTR declaration on natural and cultural values, contact your local council to ask that they make an objection.  Click here for tips on lobbying local council.

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Forest practices plans

There is no statutory opportunity for public comment on an application for a forest practices plan.  However, the Forest Practices Code provides for notice of proposed forestry operations to be given to landholders within 100m of the boundary of the operation at least 30 days before the clearing commences.

In practice, landholders are generally invited to consult the responsible Forest Practices Officer regarding a proposed forest practices plan.  However, without a legislative requirement there is no way to insist that this happen.

If you receive notice of proposed forestry works, you should:

  • contact the landowner and the Forest Practices Officer (listed on the notice) to request a copy of the Forest Practices Plan.
  • request a meeting with the Forest Practices Officer  to discuss the proposal
  • if you are concerned about impacts on threatened species, contact the Threatened Species Unit within DPIPWE to ask whether they have assessed the proposed forestry operations

 There is no statutory requirement to provide copies of forest practices plans.  Forestry Tasmania has a policy of making FPPs on land managed by Forestry Tasmania available (on its website, and for purchase from its offices), but this is not required by legislation.  For FPPs related to private land, you should contact the individual company first.  If no copy is provided, you can make a Right to Information request to the Forest Practices Authority (click here for tips on gathering information).

 The Forest Practices Authority and DPIPWE have developed assessment procedures and standard prescriptions in respect of listed threatened species.  Additional, site-specific provisions may also be included in a forest practices plan on advice from the Threatened Species unit.

Click here for a sample letter responding to notice of a proposed forest practices plan.

TIPS FOR PREPARING FOR A MEETING WITH A FOREST PRACTICES OFFICER

  • Request a copy of the draft Forest Practices Plan be provided at least 7 days before the meeting so you have chance to review it
  • Use the FPP Locator tool to see what other Forest Practices Plans have been issued in your area (there is a limit on the percentage of forest area in a catchment that can be cleared)
  • Make a list of your main concerns – impacts on threatened species, bushfire risks, water quality, road safety, visual amenity
  • Contact the Threatened Species unit to see if they have any concerns about the proposed FPP
  • Contact your local council to see whether they have any concerns about the proposal
  • Read the Forest Practices Code and identify any provisions that you think the FPP does not comply with
  • Read the Forest Practices Officer manual and identify any issues you think are contrary to the manual
  • If the forestry operations are being carried out by Forestry Tasmania, review Forestry Tasmania’s policies and identify anything about the FPP that is contrary to those policies
  • IMG_8569Get copies of any reports that you would like to present to the Forest Practices Officer (for example, reports outlining the natural or heritage values of the site or groundwater mapping showing aquifer recharge may be disrupted by plantation growth)
  • If possible, mark the FPP maps provided with any missing information (such a eagles nests, crayfish burrows, heritage features, water access points, walking tracks or caves)
  • Think about any conditions that you think would make the proposal acceptable (for example, if some areas were excluded from harvesting or if a creek crossing was relocated to a less sensitive area)
  • Make a list of questions that you would like to ask the Forest Practice Officer / landowner and any extra documents that you would like to receive

  Keep good notes of what was said at the meeting, particularly if any commitments were made to follow up issues raised or to provide you with more information.  It is a good idea to send a copy of your notes to the Forest Practices Officer after the meeting.

If you remain unhappy about a proposed Forest Practices Plan, you should make a written objection to the Forest Practices Officer and send a copy of the objection to the Chief Forest Practices Officer.  The objection should clearly identify areas where you think the FPP does not comply with the Forest Practices Code.

Sometimes, it may be necessary to lobby the Tasmanian Minister for Forests to intervene to stop proposed logging.  Click here for tips on lobbying.

 

Planning permits

On private land, other than a private timber reserve (see above), vegetation clearance or forest roadworks may require a planning permit in addition to a forest practices plan.

In many cases, the clearing will be permitted (that is, not subject to public comment) provided it is carried out under a certified forest practices plan.  In situations where the clearing is discretionary, any person will be able to make a representation regarding the proposed works.  The representation will need to address the relevant assessment criteria, which will vary depending on the planning scheme that applies to the land.

  Generally speaking, lawful forestry activities in Tasmania do not require additional assessment and approval under the EPBC Act, even where the activities may impact on listed threatened species, heritage places or Ramsar wetlands.  However, this exemption from the EPBC Act applies only to commercial forestry activities and does not include clearing for other purposes, such as conversion to grazing land.  If you believe that non-commercial clearing may have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, you can contact the Commonwealth Department of Environment and ask them to investigate whether the clearing requires approval under the EPBC Act.

See “Planning and Development” for more information about responding to development applications.

 

Revocation or amendment of Forest Practices Plans 

The Forest Practices Authority may revoke or vary a forest practices plan “for any reason it considers sufficient” – this could include new scientific information regarding the extent of threatened species habitat within the forest coupe or the impact that forestry operations are having on local water supplies or repeated breaches by the forest operator.  There is no formal provision for public requests, but there is nothing to prevent a member of the public writing to the Forest Practices Authority to request that a plan be revoked.

Click here for a sample letter requesting that a forest practices plan be revoked.

If the Forest Practices Authority intends to revoke a forest practices plan, the forest operator and the landowner must be notified and given an opportunity to comment before a final decision is made.  The forest operator can appeal to the Forest Practices Tribunal against a revocation decision.

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Monitoring and reporting

Forestry offences

There are a number of offences relating to activities under the Forest Practices Act 1985, including:

  • carrying out forest practices without a Forest Practices Plan
  • breaching a condition of a Forest Practices Plan
  • purchasing timber which has not been harvested in accordance with a Forest Practices Plan.

If you believe that someone may be committing an offence (or just engaging in poor forest management practices), you should contact the Forest Practices Authority and ask them to investigate.  Click here for a sample letter requesting an investigation.

The FPA investigates all complaints, in accordance with its investigation and enforcement protocols.  Investigations are undertaken directly by FPA compliance staff, or by consultant forest practices officers. Reports and recommendations are then reviewed by the Chief Forest Practices Officer or the board of the FPA (for more serious matters).

Where the investigation shows that there has been a breach, the FPA may take any of the following actions:

  • FPOs may give verbal or written notification requiring the person to comply with the Forest Practices Act 1985 or an FPP. Where this notice is not complied with, an FPO may issue a second notice to direct the person to cease operations and carry out any work required to ameliorate any damage incurred as a result of the breach. Failure to comply with a second notice is considered a breach under the Act and can lead to prosecution.
  • The FPA may prosecute the offender
  • The FPA may impose fines as an alternative to prosecution
  • The FPA may also revoke or vary the forest practices plan to address any damage caused by the offence.

Where a forestry offence involves pollution or environmental harm, the FPA may undertake a joint investigation with the EPA (see the Memorandum of Understanding between the EPA and the FPA).

 

Complaints about burn offs 

Forestry Tasmania (along with Parks and Wildlife, Tasmania Fire Service, land managers and private landowners) regularly carry out planned burns for regeneration or bushfire management purposes.

Immediate neighbours will be given notice of planned burns.  You can also find out about planned burns in your area by:

If you wish to complain about smoke from a planned burn, you should contact the EPA Incident Response Hotline 1800 005 171 or email to incidentresponse@environment.tas.gov.au.  Click here for information about reporting pollution incidents.

The EPA does not generally investigate individual burn off events that have been conducted in accordance with the Coordinated Smoke Management System.  However, the EPA records all complaints received and reports annually on the extent of concerns.  This can help improve future smoke management.

To read the latest smoke complaints report, click here.

 

Challenging decisions

Appeals

There are limited opportunities to challenge forestry decisions.  In particular, a third party (that is, someone other than the landowner / forest operator and the FPA) cannot appeal against a decision to grant a forest practices plan.

An adjoining landowner can appeal to the Forest Practices Tribunal against decision to declare a Private Timber Reserve.  Appeals must be lodged within 14 days of receiving notice of the decision to declare the PTR and can only be made on the grounds that the PTR declaration will directly and materially disadvantage you.

See “Challenging Decisions” for information about other options to review decisions.